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Princess Cruises vs. Norwegian Cruise Line
Princess Cruises vs. Norwegian Cruise Line (Photo: Princess & Norwegian Cruises)

Princess Cruises vs. Norwegian Cruise Line

Princess Cruises vs. Norwegian Cruise Line
Princess Cruises vs. Norwegian Cruise Line (Photo: Princess & Norwegian Cruises)
Dori Saltzman
Contributor
By Dori Saltzman
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Princess Cruises
Pacific Princess (Photo: Princess Cruises)
Easygoing cruise line with few bells and whistles and a respect for cruise traditions like main dining rooms and live music; aims to put cruisers in a relaxed and rejuvenated state of mind

Norwegian Sun's Livery (Photo: Cruise Critic)
Casual cruise line designed around a "freestyle" concept of doing what you want, when you want, including no set dining times, but with more for-fee options than most other cruise lines

Fleet size, ship sizes and ages

Princess Cruises
  • 18 ships, three built before 2000
  • Smallest: Pacific Princess (672 passengers)
  • Largest: Sky Princess (3,660 passengers), Royal Princess, Regal Princess and Majestic Princess (all with 3,560 passengers)
  • Oldest: Sun Princess (1995), Sea and Grand Princess (both 1998)

Norwegian Cruise Line
  • 16 ships (17 by end of 2019); two built before 2000
  • Smallest: Norwegian Sun (1,936 passengers) and Norwegian Sky (2,004 passengers)
  • Largest: Norwegian Escape (4,248 passengers), Norwegian Epic (4,100 passengers), Norwegian Bliss (4,004 passengers)
  • Oldest: Norwegian Spirit (1998), Norwegian Sky (1999)

Pricing

Credit Card Mishaps That Could Ruin Your Cruise (Photo: Oliver Hoffmann/Shutterstock.com)
Princess Cruises
  • Pricing is in line with industry averages, but sales are offered frequently
  • Cruise fares include almost one-half of the alternative dining venues on all ships
  • Pricing includes all theater entertainment

Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Prices are generally similar to industry averages (sometimes a tad lower), but the line is known for nickel-and-diming onboard
  • Cruise fare includes less than half of the restaurants offered onboard
  • Unlike most cruise ships where for-fee restaurants carry a cover charge, all for-fee eateries, minus two, are a la carte (priced per item)
  • All entertainment included (except for lunch and dinner shows, plus alcohol-included special experiences such as Prohibition, the Musical, all of which are only available on select ships)
  • Offers all-inclusive fares onboard short sailings of two ship in its fleet (Norwegian Sky, Norwegian Sun) that include all soft and alcoholic drinks

Demographics

Princess Cruises
St. Barts (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)
View Princess Cruises Roll Calls
  • Caribbean and Alaska sailings draw families, couples and groups of friends in most age brackets
  • Exotic itineraries (primarily offered on Diamond Princess, Sun Princess and Pacific Princess) pull in a 55-plus crowd

Norwegian Cruise Line
The Studio on Norwegian Breakaway (Photo: Cruise Critic)
View Norwegian Roll Calls
  • Popular with families and couples, ages 35 to 65
  • Larger number of solo cruisers on ships that feature Studio rooms (Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Bliss)

Itineraries/Destinations/Homeports

Princess Cruises
Phuket (Photo:arlos castilla/Shutterstock)
View Princess Cruises Itineraries
  • Cruises out of seven North American mainland ports, depending on season, with no ships staying at a single port year-round
  • Sails Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexico and Hawaii itineraries from the U.S.
  • Offers one of the strongest Alaska cruise (with optional land) program in the industry
  • Sails Europe cruises three-quarters of the year, including Northern Europe, Mediterranean and Baltic itineraries from several European ports
  • Operates world cruises
  • Has ships sailing in Australia and Asia year-round
  • Exotic cruises include South Pacific, Asia, India, Australia/New Zealand, South America and Africa sailings

Norwegian Cruise Line
Flamenco Beach, on the Puerto Rican Island of Culebra (Photo: Chad Zuber/Shutterstock)
View Norwegian Itineraries
  • Sails from 12 ports on the North American mainland, plus Puerto Rico on a regular basis, if not year-round
  • Offers Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda, Mexico and Alaska itineraries
  • Offers seasonal Mediterranean and Northern Europe itineraries
  • Only major cruise line to sail year-round all-Hawaiian island cruises departing from Hawaii
  • Exotic itineraries include South America, as well as Asia, Australia, India and the Arabian Gulf

Cabins

Princess Cruises
Regal Princess Cabins
  • Large selection of room categories to choose from
  • Distinctive room options include oceanview suites, plus mini-suites without a balcony (select ships only)
  • Extensive suite perk program including a complimentary dinner at an alternative restaurant on the first night, priority embarkation/debarkation, butler service, free laundry and access to the Club Class dining room or a Club Class section of the main dining room (depending on ship) for dinner each night, plus daily breakfast and lunch on sea days
  • Limited family room choices include regular rooms with connecting doors, as well as family suites with full baths on select ships

Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Breakaway Cabins
  • Cabin sizes are comparable to industry standards, though balconies on the Breakaway-class ships are notably small
  • Large selection of room types, even on the line's older ships
  • Six ships offer Studio cabins, which are inside cabins sized and priced for solo cruisers
  • Four ships have spa cabins, which come with free access to the onboard saunas and steam room
  • Nine ships have the exclusive, key-card-access, top-deck Haven suite complex, which features a private courtyard and pool; of these ships, five also have a private lounge and dining room for suite passengers
  • Suite privileges include priority embarkation, debarkation and tender boarding; butler and concierge service; a suites-only breakfast location; complimentary sparkling wine, fruit and bottled water on embarkation day; and free daily canapes

Dining

Princess Cruises
Emerald Princess Dining
  • One main dining room on each ship is designated a traditional dining area (early and late seatings), while one or more other dining rooms is for the flexible Anytime Dining program (except on Pacific Princess, which only offers Traditional)
  • Partnership with Australian celebrity chef Curtis Stone brings "Crafted by Curtis" menu items to the main dining room, as well as a Share by Curtis Stone restaurant on three ships
  • Partnership with chocolatier Norman Love provides passengers with special chocolate desserts, drinks, tasting experiences and spa treatments
  • Passengers in balcony rooms can take advantage of the for-fee Ultimate Balcony Dining, an in-room, fine-dining experience
  • At least one formal night per sailing requiring passengers to dress up for dinner (or eat in the buffet where casual dress is acceptable)

Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Epic Dining
  • No early or late dinner seatings; instead you can eat in any of the restaurants at any time during open hours (reservations for specialty restaurants are encouraged)
  • Most ships have two free alternative eateries: one Asian-style (lunch, dinner) and one pub/restaurant (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
  • All ships have four to six extra-fee specialty restaurants including a steak, Italian, French, Japanese hibachi, Brazilian and sushi restaurant; all but the hibachi and Brazilian eateries are priced per item
  • Four ships (Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Escape, Norwegian Bliss) feature The Waterfront, an outdoor space offering alfresco seating for several of the ships' bars and restaurants
  • One optional formal night on weeklong sailings

Pool Deck Fun

Princess Cruises
Royal Princess Activity/Entertainment
  • Most ships have at least three pools, including a less-trafficked aft pool, and a minimum of five hot tubs; several ships also have a pool with a retractable roof
  • Silly poolside games on sea days on ships sailing in the Caribbean
  • Adults-only Sanctuary (some with pool) offers a quiet sun deck/pool alternative for a half-day or full-day fee
  • Movie showings daily on upper sun deck as part of Movies Under the Stars

Norwegian Cruise Line
TA Norwegian Sun Pool2
  • Every ship in the fleet has at least one large pool or two smaller pools, as well as four to six hot tubs
  • Kids' pool or splash pool on all ships
  • Eight ships have pool and water slide combos; six of these have multi-slide Aqua Parks
  • Pool decks are mostly for lounging around but on hot-weather cruises there's always some poolside fun to be had

Sports Deck Fun

Princess Cruises
Mini Golf on Emerald Princess (Photo: Cruise Critic)
  • All ships have jogging tracks and shuffleboard; most also have a basketball court
  • All ships have a golf area, which might have a practice cage or a nine-hole putting course

Norwegian Cruise Line
Family mini-golf on a Norwegian cruise (Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line)
  • Every ship has a basketball court; most also have golf driving nets and a handful have mini-golf
  • Four ships have rock climbing walls; two of these also have a ropes course and mini-golf -- a fifth ship, Norwegian Escape, has a massive ropes course but no rock climbing wall
  • Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Joy have a two-level Go-Kart racing track, plus an outdoor laser tag course; both cost extra to use; they also have mini-golf, but no rock climbing wall or rope course

Indoor Fun

Princess Cruises
Sapphire Princess
  • Daily fun includes trivia, arts and crafts, bingo, dance classes and Voice of the Ocean rehearsals (a singing competition created via a partnership with TV's "The Voice")
  • Destination-specific lectures and enrichment programs on itineraries in Alaska, Asia, Europe and the South Pacific
  • Several ships in the fleet have a multi-deck piazza-style atrium, a hub for dining and entertainment

Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Bliss  Activity/Entertainment
  • Daytime indoor fun (free and for-a-fee) includes dance classes, bingo, trivia and the interactive "Deal or No Deal" show, as well as beer and wine tastings
  • Select ships offer full-size or miniature bowling
  • Several ships have a free circus-themed escape room experience; participants must work together to solve puzzles and "escape" within a specified time frame
  • Several ships have a wall-sized Wii screen in the atrium for group Wii play

Nightlife

Princess Cruises
Movies Under the Stars (Photo: Princess Cruises)
  • Select ships feature a made-for-Princess theater show created by Oscar winner and composer of "Wicked," "Pippin" and "Godspell" Stephen Schwartz
  • All ships have musical revue-style shows, as well as intermittent comedy and magic acts
  • Piano and small act music shows available nightly in just about every bar and lounge
  • Vines wine bar, with its sizeable list of varietals, is the spot for a late-night glass of wine or a wine-and-chocolate pairing
  • All ships have a late-night dance club

Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Sky Activity/Entertainment
  • Full-length Broadway productions on five ships: Norwegian Breakaway ("Rock of Ages"), Norwegian Getaway ("Legally Blonde"), Norwegian Epic ("Priscilla Queen of the Desert"), Norwegian Escape ("After Midnight"), and Norwegian Bliss ("Jersey Boys")
  • All ships offer comedy acts at least once per sailing, with four ships featuring nightly shows in a dedicated comedy club
  • Every ship in the fleet features musical revue-style song-and-dance theater shows several times per sailing
  • Newer ships also feature alternative wine- or cocktail-focused theater shows or dinner/theater shows, for an extra fee
  • All ships have at least eight to 10 bars and lounges

Family Focus

Princess Cruises
Remix Teen Club on Emerald Princess (Photo: Cruise Critic)
Princess Family Cruise Reviews
  • Three kids clubs for smaller kids, tweens and teens
  • Kid-centric shipboard and shore excursion programs for children themed around Discovery Channel TV shows including Discovery, Animal Planet, the Learning Channel and the Science Channel
  • All ships (minus Pacific Princess) have a kids' splash pool; select vessels have teen-only hot tubs
  • DIY laundry rooms for easy cleaning of kids' clothing
  • Select ships have two-room family suites

Norwegian Cruise Line
Splash Academy Guppies on Norwegian Epic (Photo: Cruise Critic)
Norwegian Family Cruise Reviews
  • Kids' programming is divided into four groups: ages 3 to 5, 6 to 9, 10 to 12, and 13 to 17
  • The Guppies program on all ships offers scheduled programming for parents and their babies or toddlers, ages 6 months to 2 years; Norwegian Escape and Bliss have a Guppies Nursery where parents can drop off their babies (6 months to 2 years) for babysitting
  • For-fee evening and port day group baby-sitting is available for kids ages 3 to 12
  • Family accommodation options include suites, oceanview cabins, balconies and inside rooms

Tradition vs Innovation

Princess Cruises
  • Provides a refined, somewhat traditional cruise experience that includes main dining rooms, limited specialty restaurants and song-and-dance revue evening shows
  • Limited innovations on the newest ships include the SeaWalk, a see-through glass walkway suspended off one side of the ship 16 decks above the water

Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Water parks, ropes courses, laser tag, Broadway shows and the innovative alfresco dining area, The Waterfront are among the innovations found only on the newest ships
  • Two newest ships, Norwegian Bliss and Joy, have full-scale Go-Kart racetracks
  • Historically, has been a line unafraid to experiment with dining, entertainment and design

Updated January 08, 2020

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